Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.
There are few gaming franchises that remain strong over the course of a decade, let alone that of fourteen years. Since 2004, Capcom has created a series that has built up a passionate fan base over the course of over a dozen titles, spanning multiple consoles, handhelds, and iOS ports. At face value, the series contained several aspects I found immediately attractive, yet, it's also been a series that just couldn't keep me hooked. I've given the series a few chances to lure me in and let me experience what everyone said was a must play franchise, but the clunky combat, the overly complex systems, and its high-end difficulty kept putting me off the title instead of inviting me in. With Monster Hunter World hitting current-gen consoles and being designed to lure in new players, I felt this was the perfect time to give the series another chance. That being said, Monster Hunter World, apart from some frustrating mechanics and combat issues, is a remarkable experience and a truly spectacular game.
While many of the core systems have seen a streamlined facelift in Monster Hunter World, the core gameplay loop remains the same from previous entries. You will have a monster to take down and use materials from that encounter to craft new weapons and armor and use those to then tackle bigger and tougher monsters. What is far different than what has come before is a heavier reliance on a narrative tied directly to each monster and for the story as a whole. While a consistent narrative isn't a stranger to the Monster Hunter series, it hasn't been integrated as well as what Capcom have accomplished here. The story itself isn't something to come off glowing about, but it does make the grind and day to day routine feel far more engaging than what the series has attempted to do before. The story does fall into a few moments of rehashing itself a few times, but overall, it does wonders to keep the game moving at a solid clip.
On your 50+ hour journey to put down a walking volcano of an Elder Dragon, you'll be tasked with carving up over 45 different monsters, with several series favorites returning like the Barroth, Rathian, Diablos, and more. Before you start your adventure to be the best there ever was, you'll be treated to several easy to follow tutorials and some vocal teachings through a series of NPC characters that will fill up a small portion of your supporting cast. As a newcomer to this particular Guild, you are given a few assignments early on to test your mettle and it's not long before you are tasked with taking down some very intense monsters and this is where the game shines. Nearly every activity present can be played with up to four players by joining up to form a hunting party, or jumping to another player's rescue via SOS signals. As for the matchmaking systems in general, well, I'll cover that a bit later on.
Monster Hunter World is not necessarily an open world game even though It can appear that way. In previous entries, numbered areas were segmented off via loading screens and this could break the flow of exploration and combat. Monster Hunter World still has these numbered sections but they are stitched together to form one large map with no loading screens present at all. Some locations, like the Ancient Forest, has a verticality that we really haven't seen before, and this can lead to some confusion early on as you attempt to learn the map. To aid in exploring and tracking your prey, Scoutflies were added to assist in providing essentially glowing green and blue breadcrumbs in the direction of your target monster. I had a few issues with the Scoutflies running me around in circles, but it happened few and far between. As you enter each location, you'll encounter tracks and markings that indicate that your prey is nearby. Interacting with enough of these tracks and your Scoutflies will alert you to the direction and location of your target. Eventually, your Scoutflies will be able to assist locating monsters faster and allow you to get to the killing a whole lot quicker.
As you vanquish or capture the catalog of monsters available, you will utilize materials from those encounters to craft better weapons and armor. At first, you don't have much and it can take several fells of a monster to earn enough materials to get the items you desire. Complete sets can often result in farming the same creature over and over again until you manage to secure enough materials and often, a rare item. This is even more relevant later on when you achieve High Rank and have access to far better gear and even more so when you hit the endgame. While most items can be harvested from the body of the monster, or collected during a capture, you can also deal enough damage to a monster to chop off specfic parts of its body, like its tail, to earn more and specific rewards.
Hunter Arts, which were a popular addition to Monster Hunter Generations don't make an appearance here and instead, you'll rely simply on various weapon combos from the assortment of 14 different weapons. These are broken down into light, heavy, technical, and ranged weapons. Light weapons consist of the Long Sword, Sword and Shield, and the Dual Blades. Heavy weapons are via the Great Sword, Hammer, Lance, and Gun Lance. Technical Weapons consist of the Insect Glaive, Charge Blade, Hunting Horn, and my personal favorite, the Switch Axe. Lastly, Ranged weapons contain the following; The Bow, Light Bowgun, and the Heavy Bowgun.
While I started out with the Dual Blades, I found I wasn't exactly having a lot of fun and after watching another player on Youtube use the Switch Axe, it looked rather interesting. This became a game changer for me. One aspect of the prior Monster Hunter games that put me off was the slow and lethargic combat when it came to the vast selection of Heavy weapons. While that aspect of combat is still present, the Switch Axe contains all the hard-hitting aspects of a heavy weapon but with the fast and agile movement of a light weapon. It was a match made in heaven. I've recently been enjoying the Light Bowgun and the Insect Glaive, which can be an absolute riot. I strongly suggest checking out the training tutorials in the game as you will start with one of each weapon in your inventory, allowing you to learn how to properly use each of the 14 different weapons and find one that suits your playstyle best.
After you've chosen your starting weapon, you'll want to increase the amount of damage it does and this is through collecting materials from both monsters and the environment. The Monster Hunter series has always been about taking the bits and pieces of a felled beast and fashioning those bits into a weapon or set of armor that contain traces of what it once was. When you see another Hunter join the fight alongside you and check out their armor and weapon, you can immediately tell what sort of adventure they have been on, and that is something that can't really be said for a lot of other online experiences. Monster Hunter's entire assortment of weapons and armor are based on the monsters you hunt, meaning if you want a weapon or armor set that resembles Diablos, then you are going to have to capture or kill nearly a dozen or so of that specific monster. There are some high-rank items that contain bits and pieces from multiple monsters, so just know that your work is never done. Each set or specific weapon can be tagged into a wish list, meaning that should you collect the required amount of materials to craft it, the game will let you know.
It's not just armor and weapons that you'll be crafting, as your traps, potions, and various flavors of ammo will require materials like spider webs, herbs, ivy, honey, and far more materials that you'll track down throughout many of the six available areas. Each item can be set to automatically craft itself should you have the required amount of materials needed to do so. While exploring the vast wilderness is an easy way to earn these materials, you are also given access to harvest these in your own garden, rewards via bounties, incoming special shipments, or sending out a small Palico army to harvest a set path of rewards. Monster Hunter is strongly built around crafting and the game offers a wide variety of ways to do so without it feeling like a grind.
Unlike games like Destiny, where its loot drops are based around RNG systems of pure luck, Monster Hunter World doesn't quite feel as though your progress is based on chance, at least on the surface. While monsters don't drop full armor pieces or unique weapons, they do still have a random chance to drop a rare material and this can result in having to farm that monster multiple times before it may drop that required item. The armor sets and weapons you work towards are almost always visible to you and can grant you a sense of deep accomplishment when you have enough materials to finally craft it, a feeling that is far more rewarding than having a gun or armor item randomly dropping in front of you. Monster Hunter World makes you feel like you are consistently earning rewards and working towards the goals that you set, instead of what the game demands from you. Crafting my full set of Nergigante armor was a true high point of the game for me, as was the construction of my Switch Axe, also crafted from that very same monster.
While the game could stop there for crafting armor and weapons just for your hunter, you are also joined into combat with a feline companion called a Palico. This little hunter's assistant can deal some pretty decent damage or come to your rescue in a pinch with some last minute heals. Eventually, you can equip various tools like the plunder blade and have them hack off monster materials at will. Palico's have a fraction of the armor choices as your hunter and range from dressing them up in cute and adorable outfits or simply as a messenger of death. The same materials that you use to craft your own gear are used to a much lesser degree here with their equipment, but you'll still need to make that choice of spending a possibly rare item to kit out your kitty.
Getting a monster to drop a certain item can also come from how you are attacking it. Cutting off the tail belonging to one of these behemoths can be an exciting moment in the game when you are riding atop said creature and hammering or cutting away at its tail, all while trying to remain on top as it attempts to shake you off. While a few weapons can assist in reaching the top of the creature to perform this rodeo of sorts, you'll often have to rely on jumping off cliffs or small inclines to get aboard each monster. If you damage it just enough in certain sections, you can trigger some weapon attacks that allow you to latch onto the creature for a small but enjoyable ride. My jaw damn near hit the floor the first time I triggered the sword portion of my Switch Axe and my hunter grabbed onto the side of the monsters face as she continued to drill into the beast with extreme ferocity. It was a wonder to behold.
Joining alongside a group of friends to take down monsters together is a big part of Monster Hunter World, so it's odd that the game doesn't do a better job at making that happen. There are a few hoops to jump through to allow players to play a story mission together that just doesn't make any sense. In order to make this happen, you need to have watched the initial cutscene that triggers when your hunter finds that monster. Then, you can either invite after that, while either running away from the monster or finding a few seconds to send the invite out or by returning to camp and then grouping up then. It's a process that boggles the mind why this was set up this way, but I'm sure that Capcom will eventually patch it to allow us to group up without that hassle. Low-rank expeditions are also blocked from joining unless you complete a mission and then return to camp as a group. For a game as player friendly as Monster Hunter World appears to be, it's odd that these issues even made it through QA testing.
Other than those two issues, multiplayer works like a charm. You can load missions from the menu and trigger an SOS flare to let other players know you are either in danger or just want the company of another hunter to make that fight a tad bit easier. You can search by mission difficulty, investigations, optional quests, special events, story quests, or for a specific monster. You are able to reap the benefits of each missions rewards as long as 10 minutes have not passed in the mission, otherwise, you won't earn bonus rewards or recognition that you have completed the mission at your end. The matchmaking can be a bit finicky in regards to showing you available missions that are already full up, thus booting you from matchmaking, but unless they update those lists in real-time, there isn't really anything that can be done to help.
While a hunting party can only consist of 4 players, an online session of your peers can consist of 16. You can search for available missions for your session and players can join or create squads, which are essentially Monster Hunter's versions of clans. Adding friends to your game can be as easy as accessing your friend's list via the console's dashboard or as hard as having to enter in a 12 digit session ID. For as easy as it can be to join in or invite a friend to your game, Capcom could have made it far easier and more intuitive.
While you can take in much of the game solo, as it will indeed enhance the challenge, there is something to be said about how more enjoyable playing with other players can be, even when they are total strangers. Rolling out of the way of a rampaging Nergigante can be intense, but seeing another playing swoop in and leap into the air and mount the creature is a thrilling experience. When all four hunters are focused and nailing each hit and dodge, it's a beautiful chaotic dance when that Monster is throwing fire or electrical charges all around the group. While the aforementioned team-up experience is a big selling point of the game for me, it can have its drawbacks. Most missions have a faint limit of 3 and this can drop in seconds when a monster is destroying an inexperienced team. I've had a whole mission fail because of a single player and several times it was during hunts where the monster was nearly dead. While that is the nature of the game, it still doesn't spoil what I feel is a game that is heightened, and not hindered, by its multiplayer.
Monster Hunter World runs on the MT Framework engine, a toolset Capcom has used since 2006's Dead Rising. Despite the age of the engine, Capcom has delivered us an insanely gorgeous game. Environments are colorful, vibrant, and are visually distinct with their detail and how spacious certain locations can be. Each monster, from the small Girros, to the massive Elder Dragons, not only look visually impressive but have polish to their animations and behaviors that can truly add to the experience. Xbox One X and PS4 Pro users easily get the best versions of the game currently available as you can select from various visual and performance settings like playing in a higher resolution or offering a more stable framerate. The game still runs and looks remarkably well on the non-4K powered consoles, but if you do have a 4K TV and an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, you'll be treated to a slightly more satisfying experience. The PC version is due out this fall and should easily surpass the visual fidelity of these current gen consoles.
Despite how impressive Monster Hunter World has been, I do have a few issues that have led to several bouts of extreme frustration, thrown controllers and many swear words being hurled at the TV. I will also address that these issues may vary from person to person and may very well come with the territory when it comes to the Monster Hunter franchise and my lack of experience with the series. I found the hit detection to be all over the place and after talking with other players and my own group of friends, I'm not alone. I've had attacks that clearly were not even close to me knock me down and place my character in a daze, often to be then hit with an attack that caused my character to faint. The stun system can often feel cheap and while I understand its purpose, it's simply something I found to be more of an annoyance than anything else. The lock-on camera requires that you shuffle through all monsters on the tracking list before it can be turned off and this can lead to your character's camera swinging all over the place and when it happens during battle and you accidentally cycle one too many times, then you have to cycle through that list all over again.
The overall controls for your character can often feel slow and unresponsive and I've had to find shortcuts to bypass one particular action; sheathing your weapon. While you can press RB to disarm, thus allowing you to pick up various items around you, the button doesn't feel as responsive as anything else in the game. I've had to resort to prepping an item by press X to disarm and then just refraining from pressing X again to use said item. Triggering the running animation will also stow your weapon and can sometimes be the quicker and safer option. Had the RB button worked even while rolling, then it would have solved one of the biggest issues I have with combat. That being said, I am well aware that Monster Hunter plays a certain way and it is an intentional design choice to operate the way it does. Another odd issue is something that I am still not exactly sure how it works and that is jumping off cliffs. Often, as I approach a cliff-side to simply jump down or onto the back of an unaware monster, I could press the A button to jump down. However; sometimes it will flash up that I need to press B and I haven't seen anything that explains the differences.
While the game is filled with numerous menu's, many with a ton of information that I haven't even got into here, the menu's for selecting missions and hunts is painfully unresponsive when attempting to browse it, with your movements in the menu feeling as if the button gets occasionally stuck. It's not game breaking or that frustrating, but it can make you select the wrong option sometimes when you are attempting to select something else. Another menu that doesn't quite work as fast as I would like it to is the radial menu you use during your hunts. Since you use the analog stick to select what you want, I would often select the wrong item during an intense encounter, or items like my Whetstone wouldn't select properly and you would have to retry navigating the wheel. While you can select most options via your item bar, the radial wheel just doesn't feel as polished as other control systems.
Capcom has crafted a truly enjoyable online experience with Monster Hunter World, one that is not plagued by loot boxes or microtransactions and instead allows you to hunt and craft to your heart's content. Taking in a hunt alongside a full crew of experienced hunters is a work of art when everyone is coming together as a team. The sheer amount of missions, monsters, and rewards is staggering and you always feel as though you are earning something new each time you head out to track down your next target. I still get frustrated by a few things here and there and doubt very much the cursing at my TV will ever stop, but the infectious gameplay and crafting systems will keep me coming back for more and I'll keep pushing through the enjoyable endgame content on my way to train for the possibility of the higher G rank quests that may very well be in this game's future.